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Midwest Futures
Phil Christman
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Midwest Futures

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  89 ratings  ·  23 reviews
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Apr 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about what "Midwestern" means. Any American will get some insight from it, but for me, as someone who grew up in southern Indiana, specifically in Bloomington, I feel both natively midwestern and also not midwestern at all. The book helped me understand just what the term has meant during its existence, and helped me solidify previously nebulous concepts with a grounding in their history and the history of the region. As the title suggests, the tie the binds all the nebulous conce ...more
May 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Early in the book, Christman quotes Willa Cather, "No one who has not grown up in a little prairie town could know anything about it." As someone who did and then moved away and has watched those outside those little prairie towns struggle to understand and describe them this is unquestionably true. However, in this book Christman comes about as close as anyone has to translating that understanding.

In a series of essays, he tackles the history, tropes, social and political movements that have d
Hillary Copsey
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Belt Publishing consistently puts out solidly written and researched books about the Midwest.
The most Midwestern thing Christman does is shout out the Midwest's lefty independent presses in the middle of the book, naming Haymarket and half a dozen others, without mentioning Belt, the publisher of this book, but clearly meaning Belt.

This is a bit of a hidden memoir, as the book is more or less framed by Christman processing his own non-departure from a region that punished him in his childhood. At the core of this book is Christman's own alienation from and anger at the surface-level aff
Abby Rubin
Jan 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Christman breaks down the past, present, and future of the midwest into 36 short, interconnected essays. To write a book about the midwest, you have to first define it. The way that Christmas describes the inability to define the midwest is one of the many reasons for anyone who has ever called the midwest home to read this book. There is something consistent and inexplicable about the midwest. At one point in US history, we were the unknown frontier. Then we were the seat of manufacturing and t ...more
Apr 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful & thought-provoking telling of the past that also sets up possible futures. Also, discovered a cool, small, Midwestern press.
Matt Beatty
May 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The 36 sections that make up this book range from high enjoyable to revelatory. And the “notes” section provides a great list of further reading that will occupy me for some time!
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The clearest view I've received of why the mythical and real "Midwest" is forever the opportunity-space of tomorrow, and why that's rarely been a good thing. ...more
Apr 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-for-my-mfa
Erudite and humble, a rare combination in both people and books. Phil’s got it.
Feb 24, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Another well-wrought title from Belt Publishing, Midwest Futures is part Marxist-inflected socioeconomic history of the Midwest (hint: it's always been about financializing natural resources at the expense of every other consideration), part projection into the near future prospects for the region, with an emphasis on how if we always do what we've always done (exploitation), we'll always get what we've always gotten (environmental devastation, urban blight, and wasted human potential). It bring ...more
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2020
If you’re from the Midwest and you need to feel bad about being from the Midwest read this book. I am a big fan of Belt Publishing and I was excited to read this book. It started out as an interesting topic with the first chapter discussing the boundaries and contours of what it means to say the Midwest and I was exited to see where the author would go next. But after a couple of chapters it became depressing. what he had to say is they anything good about the Midwest seems to be a myth. so just ...more
Carla Bayha
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In "Midwest Futures," Michigan author Christman challenges what you thought you knew about the Midwest, from the economics of railroads, Native American genocide, "racial quarantines," and whether these states are really any better positioned to ride out climate change disruption. The title refers to where the nebulous "Midwest" is headed, and also to the Chicago Board of Trade whose futures exchange serves as an example for the many "innovations" in these states that have both helped, and then ...more
Amanda Dee
At once historical and futuristic, "Midwest Futures" is a survey of the place and mindset we have come to know as the Midwest. Phil Christman offers an incisive, focused analysis of what could have easily become unwieldy, looking to the terrain itself and the opposing visions that have been projected onto it. He unturns the stones of politics, economics, and culture while still finding poetry in the soil ("Perhaps the idea of soil, in humility, is an image of what is normal that is broad enough ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. Phil Christman writes about that strange designation “the Midwest” and the place it purports to describe. He tells the history, discusses how the Midwest lives in American imagination and writing, and looks at pressing and future issues. Being from the same state as Christman and also from the Midwest I was keenly interested in this book and the ways the Midwest has been portrayed and is currently viewed. I did not resonate with everything he had to say about the Midw ...more
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I have been obsessing about books published by small press Belt Publishing headquartered here in Cleveland. I just finished Midwest Futures and was elated. Not elated to be finished but downright full of joy. Here is a socio-economic analysis peppered with downright excellent prose about the past, present and future of the Midwest. For those of us who have always lived between the North and South (the true origins of middle) but arrived much after it had been colonized as a part of white America ...more
Sydney Fuchs
Midwest Futures is essentially a book discussing what the Midwest is, how the Midwest was influenced historically, and what being Midwestern means as we look toward the future. I enjoyed most essays (there are 36 total) and could have lived without reading others. I am a sucker for academically written, thoughtful, and insightful non-fiction (especially if it is written with a sprinkle of dry humor and sarcasm).

“Perhaps the term is simply colonial-geographical: you’re in the western part of the
Darius Ostrowski
As someone who has spent his whole life in and around Chicago, I was interested to see this take on the American Midwest. This collection of essays from Mr. Christman range from the interesting to the thought-provoking to the not-so-interesting. The best essays addressed the history and definition of the Midwest, and how it has changed over time. I also enjoyed the unique structure of the book, as well as some of the personal stories. But the philosophical and theoretical stuff was kind of ho-hu ...more
Cook Memorial Public Library
Highly recommended by Nate. Listen to his podcast interview with Phil Christman:

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Jul 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Thought provoking essays on what is means to be a Midwesterner, and an attempt to define and describe the Midwest. Lots of good references to reflect on. It was not exactly light reading but interesting and current all the same.
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
this person is the most consistently brilliant writer i read on a regular basis
“It’s a serious responsibility, having an enemy.”
Jun 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A gut punch to Midwest smugness.
UPDATE: Pretty much agree with John Wilson's review.

John Wilson's review:
Benno Martens
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Mar 21, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Sep 08, 2020
J T. Ramsay
rated it it was amazing
Jan 23, 2021
Lauren Bracey scheidt
rated it it was amazing
Jul 13, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Jun 20, 2020
Afton Welninski
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Nov 07, 2020
Nathan Payne
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Oct 04, 2020
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